Thursday, October 20, 2005

New Insight Into Kanzi and How a Great Ape Acquired Language

A new book authored by scientists at Great Ape Trust of Iowa delivers additional insight into the acquisition of language by the most famous bonobo chimpanzee in the world, Kanzi. Kanzi's Primal Language: The Cultural Initiation of Primates into Language was written by William Fields and Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh of Great Ape Trust and Dr. Par Segerdahl of Uppsala University of Sweden.

Kanzi's Primal Language offers important new knowledge into how culture and language interlace in early childhood by showing how Kanzi originally acquired language when he was a young ape -- spontaneously in a culture he shared with humans.

"Kanzi's language acquisition overthrows the theoretical framework in which people have tried to imagine what it means for a child to develop language -- it is neither innate nor learned through training or imitation," says Fields. "Language is a spontaneous companion to how one tangibly lives and serves as a reflection of the ideational system that emerges as an aspect of cultural ontogeny and development. You don't teach the brain language any more than you teach the brain to think."

Published by Palgrave Macmillan, Kanzi's Primal Language will help the scientific community, and the general public, better understand the similarity between humans and apes -- similarities that extend even to language.

"We should never think in limiting terms what anyone can do, whether it's an ape or a human," says Fields. "If you provide apes every opportunity to fully express themselves, and early enough in their lives, they will do things you thought they wouldn't or couldn't do."

Story here.

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